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GR5 part II: Larche–Menton

Trip Report: 1–16 September 2017

New Alps: rocky, steep, wild, & remote.

The Alps I knew were green pastures, bells ringing on cows’ necks, farm houses on gentle slops, & glacial water fountains to quench thirst even when not thirsty. That was the case during our hike last year on part I of the trip.

Not in the Parc national du Mercantour.


I had just finished bicycle Route des Grandes Alpes in Menton on Thursday 31 August 2017.

Friday was a day along the beach from Menton to Monte Carlo & then Nice.

On Saturday, the group assembled in Villa Saint Exupery early afternoon for a walk to Castle Rock, swim, & bakery stop.

Sunday was full with luggage transfer to our hotel at end of hike in Menton, walking tour of old town, tasting local bakeries, & shopping at Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya.

Some pâte d’amande:

Location: 43.695480°N, 7.275080°E

Some fruits confits glacés: clémentine & abricot:

Location: 43.695728°N, 7.274437°E

Private bus drove us four hours north to Larche to start the hike on Monday.

Pas de la Cavale

Breakfast at 7:00 was typical French variety not intended for hikers: white bread, butter, & jam.

This was expected to be a long day with book time of 7h:00m, not including rest, eat, or swim time. Group was ready for hike at 7:51.

Trail started with a gentle climb that got steeper later, especially as we got closer to pas de la Cavales at 2,671m.

But shortly before that, we got a chance to swim in clear frigid water of Lake Lauzanier:

Extended lunch break was at the pas, before steep descent & another climb to to col des Fourches at 2,261m. Old military fortifications were there, closed. Descent was short to our final destination of the day.

Gîte communal de Bousieyas made a pleasant stay with good food, decorated tables, friendly hosts, smiles, & home-made jam. They also arranged with their friend Valerie to serve us lunch in St-Dalmas-le-Selvage.

Col de la Colombière

Leaving the gîte, we had a mellow climb of 350m to reach col de la Colombière at 2,237m:

Which strangely has identical name to the col I passed the previous week on bicycle.

In the valley was small village of St-Dalmas-le-Selvage. We stopped at Saveurs de Montagne restaurant for extended lunch: looking at the mountains, near drinking water fountains, decorated tables, & friendly hostess Valerie. Lunch was salad: mixed greens, tomato, thinly sliced mozzarella, & olives.

After the second col d’Anelle at 1,739m, we had a long descent to St-Étienne-de-Tinée: few services in town, small market, & pond for swimming.

Col du Blainon

A relaxed day to prepare for two long ones without services.

Breakfast at Gîte le Coroborant was basic, even by low French standards. Instead, I walked to town bakery for quiche & coffee éclair.

We walked out of town for steep climb to Auron. We planned for extended stop of 2:30 hours: lunch, bakery, & grocery shopping for next day. Local Casino store had Ovomaltine selections: sports bars & chocolate powder. I loaded my small pack to maximum.

Continued climb to col du Blainon at 2,014m where views opened up for the rest of the day. We could see big mountains & valleys. Wild flowers were still in bloom even this late in the season.

Gîte Roya was flying a flag of St-Étienne-de-Tinée: two white crosses on red background:

Col de Crousette

We got lucky today: rain & thunderstorms were in the forecast. Yet, we escaped by mere minutes.

Soon after we arrived Refuge de Longon, heavy rain started with hail at times. Later, we could see snow on the far mountains where we had been.

Chicken, donkey, dogs, & cat were roaming around the refuge.

We all huddled around the fire to exchange stories & plan for the next day.

Dinner was a delightful feast. It started with socca niçoise for appetizer: baked batter of garbanzo bean flower with simple toping:

Then came vegetable soup with quinoa, local variation of mac & cheese, side of dried meat, & cheese platter.

We thought for sure that was it. As we left the table, the hostess directed us back to the table for dessert: white cheese (similar to yogurt) & blueberry jam.

After a big hike day & heavy dinner, we were ready to rest ahead of another big day tomorrow.

Tarte aux Blettes

No cols today.

Breakfast at Refuge de Longon was good with extra selection of cereals, jam, whole wheat bread, & Ovomaltine chocolate powder.

On the long descent to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, I resisted eating any snacks waiting for the bakery in town. I had been here just the week before on bicycle trip:

This time, I wanted to try tarte aux blettes & tarte aux amandes.

We spent 90 minutes resting in town square then started the climb to Rimplas. During the final climb to La Bolline, we heard thunder. So we hurried the pace. Luckily, we arrived before any rain or further risk of thunderstorm.


In preparation for Blue Mountain trail running race in Missoula, MT, on 1 October 2017, I went out for a training run.

We had arrived Saint-Dalmas mid morning. We were to spend the next five days in Parc National du Mercantour, going from one refuge to the next, without any services in between. Priority was food shopping for the next five days: lunch for next day & snacks for the remaining ones. Dinner & breakfast would be served at the lodging facilities. They would also pack lunch for us. We needed snacks between meals.

Rain was in the forecast starting at 14:00. My run started at 12:02 from town over col Saint-Martin down to Saint-Martin-Vésubie for a quick bakery stop to enjoy tart abricot-pistache, back up the col, & quick descent to town in the cold rain:

Back in town, I walked in the old part under arches & stone buildings:

Le Mercantour

Disappeared in Parc national du Mercantour for the next five days. There were no services, towns, or shops along the way, except for overnight refuges.

Views were grand & good sign of what to come: big mountains, wide valleys, & quiet wilderness.

Lakes on the route today were not appealing for a dip. Mostly because of cold wind. Water was not clear either.

Alpi Marittime

Immediately started climbing out of Gîte du Boréon. Views started to open up shortly after.

Arrived Lac de Trécoplas where some people were sunbathing & other fishing. Water was tempting for a dip. But not yet.

The climb became very steep to col des Ladres at 2,448m. Chamois was resting on the side of a rock.

A short walk from there, we arrived the Franco-Italian border. On the French side, it was col de Fenestre in Parc national du Mercantour. On the Italian side, it was colle di Finestra in Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime:

Below was time for a dip in frigid lac de Fenestre: tired legs recovered.

Descended more to Refuge de la Madone. While waiting for dinner, walked 300m to nearby Vacherie de la Madone for cheese snack.

Refuge de Nice

Short hike today on difficult rocky trail resembling those in the White Mountains of New Hampshire & some on Haute Route.

The climb reached pas du Mont Colomb at 2,548m, a narrow notch with just enough space for us to sit & eat lunch pique nique:

Descent was just as steep & rocky, leveling off near the dam for an easy walk to Refuge de Nice, overlooking lac de la Fous. Several chamois appeared that afternoon on the mountain, hopping rapidly across the rocks.

I was hungry for an omelet & tarte myrtille:

We sorted through cards to play a few games before dinner.


Continued in remote sections of the park on rocky terrain with difficult climb to Baisse du Basto, the highest point on this trip & GR52 at 2,693m.

We came very close to a bouquetin feeding on Alpine lichens:

The climb became even steeper with much loose rock. Out of caution, we kept distance between each hiker. Sure enough, a big rock started rolling towards us & other hikers.

We yelled “ROCK” as loud as we can. By fraction of a second, everyone reacted to avoid it. Shaken, we took an extended break at the col.

Lunch was at the next Baisse de Valmosque looking down at Val des Marveilles. In the valley, the trail passed a few petroglyphs. Some were replicas. The originals dated 5,000 years. Those not on the trail require a guide. Tours left Refuge des Marveilles daily at 8:00 & 13:00.


Steady gusty wind faced us all day from start at Refuge des Marveilles. It only got stronger pushing us off the trail as we crossed ridges & cols. After a steady climb, we reached pas du Diable at 2,430m with a view of the Mediterranean sea in the distance.

We continued to baisse Cavaline (2,107m), col de Raus (1,999m), & baisse de St-Véron (1,836m). At L’Authion we found shelter among old military ruins for lunch break:

It was an easy descent to Relaid de Camp d’Argent.


Clouds gave special colors & formations all day. Sun peaked through in the distance showing bright spots. Others kept calm green & gray colors.

We got a beautiful view of the Mediterranean & Nice from top of Mangiabo:

The only peak we climbed on this trip. On all other sections, we stayed between peaks, hiking through cols.

A long descent of 1,500m put us in Sospel for a visit to church, old streets, & wonderful bakieres for a slice of flan.


Final day on the trip was one of the hardest.

We had already descended 2,000m the day before to Sospel, close to sea level at 350m. To finish at sea, we had to ascend 1,100m & descend 1,450m.

Most of the day was close to the Italian border. During lunch break, I took a quick side trip to Cima Longoira peak in the clouds at the border:

Location: 43.815237°N, 7.51461°E

Abundance of wild berries were on the trail:

Location: 43.823730°N, 7.506325°E

After two years of work, we were ready for the plunge into the Mediterranean sea.

Our rooms had direct view of the water. We quickly changed into swimming clothes for a soack in the cool salty water:


Late on Saturday 16 September 2017, I boarded a private sleeping compartment on Russian РЖД train to Italy:

The train was prompt, clean, & comfortable. I had no trouble sleeping for the entire trip. My only concern was sleeping through my destination. At another time, I would welcome an opportunity to visit Moscow. This was not the time. I had an AMC trip to lead in Tuscany.

Before that though, I grew suspect of this train every time I tried to book the ticket. First, while still in the US, I for two hours on the web site & the phone with Euro Rail, but they would not book a ticket. Web booking on SNCF web site returned an error. The agent in Annemasse, France, fumbled through the system without success. Finally, in Menton, where the train stopped, the agent called for help from the manager.


Day Places Log
Friday 1 September 2017–Saturday
  • Lodging: Villa Saint Exupéry
  • Fruit, vegetables, & snacks: Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya
  • Sunday Room & board: Auberge de Lauzanier
    Monday 4 September 2017 7:51
  • Pas de la Cavales: 2,671m
  • Col des Fourches: 2,261m
  • Room & board: Gîte communal de Bousieyas
  • Log data as recorded by Garmin Fēnix 5.

    Map from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track.

    Earth view of route.

    ➡️ Distance 21.88km
    ⏩ Pace 22:10min/km
    🔄 Duration 8h:04m:54s
    ⬆️ Ascent 1,271m
    ⬇️ Descent 1,102m
    *️⃣ Calories 1,055
    📶 Temperature 16.7ºC

    Tuesday 7:59
  • Col de la Colombiére: 2,237m
  • Col d’Anelle: 1,739m
  • Room & board: Gîte le Corborant
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 19.82km
    ⏩ 22:05min/km
    🔄 7:17:32
    ⬆️ 676m
    ⬇️ 1,382m
    *️⃣ 1,146
    📶 21.2ºC
    Wednesday 8:38
  • Col du Blainon: 2,014m
  • Auron: market, bakery, & lodging
  • Room & board: Gîte Roya
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 15.98km
    ⏩ 29:11min/km
    🔄 7:46:39
    ⬆️ 1,030m
    ⬇️ 656m
    *️⃣ 740
    📶 19.0ºC
    Thursday 7:45
  • Col de Cousette: 2,480m
  • Col des Moulines: 1,981m
  • Room & board: Refuge de Longon
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 21.80km
    ⏩ 21:59min/km
    🔄 7:59:17
    ⬆️ 1,374m
    ⬇️ 999m
    *️⃣ 733
    📶 28.0ºC
    Friday 7:28 Room & board: Hôtel de Valdeblore Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 24.40km
    ⏩ 20:58min/km
    🔄 8:31:14
    ⬆️ 810m
    ⬇️ 1,652m
    *️⃣ 1,254
    📶 19.9ºC
    Saturday 9:46 Room & board: Gîte les Marmottes Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 3.59km
    ⏩ 16:02min/km
    🔄 57:37
    ⬆️ 277m
    ⬇️ 2m
    *️⃣ 194
    📶 16.7ºC
    Sunday 7:31
  • Col de Veillos: 2,194m
  • Col du Barn: 2,452m
  • Col de Salèse: 2,031m
  • Room & board: Gîte du Boréon
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 23.18km
    ⏩ 21:17min/km
    🔄 8:13:37
    ⬆️ 1,438m
    ⬇️ 1,230m
    *️⃣ 1,537
    📶 9.5ºC
    Monday 11 September 2017 9:01
  • Pas des Ladres: 2,448m
  • Col de Fenestre: 2,474m
  • Room & board: Chalet de la Madone de Fenestre
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 14.94km
    ⏩ 26:25min/km
    🔄 6:34:35
    ⬆️ 1,259m
    ⬇️ 879m
    *️⃣ 1,184
    📶 16.8ºC
    Tuesday 8:32
  • Pas du Mt Colomb: 2,548m
  • Room & board: Refuge de Nice
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 9.77km
    ⏩ 34:05min/km
    🔄 5:33:05
    ⬆️ 749m
    ⬇️ 469m
    *️⃣ 411
    📶 9.4ºC
    Wednesday 8:30
  • Baisse du Basto: 2,693m
  • Baisse de Valmasque: 2,549m
  • Room & board: Refuge de Merveilles
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 12.82km
    ⏩ 31:34min/km
    🔄 6:44:42
    ⬆️ 700m
    ⬇️ 817m
    *️⃣ 350
    📶 14.7ºC
    Thursday 8:14
  • Pas du Diable: 2,430m
  • Baisse Cavaline: 2,107m
  • Col de Raus: 1,999m
  • Baise de St-Véran: 1,846m
  • Room & board: Relais de Camp d’Argent
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 14.60km
    ⏩ 24:33min/km
    🔄 5:58:10
    ⬆️ 820m
    ⬇️ 1,171m
    *️⃣ 917
    📶 15.3ºC
    Friday 8:17
  • Baisse de la Déa: 1,750m
  • Baisse de la Linière: 1,342m
  • Baisse de Figuièra: 750m
  • Room & board: Auberge Provençale
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 28.02km
    ⏩ 18:11min/km
    🔄 8:29:23
    ⬆️ 576m
    ⬇️ 1,891m
    *️⃣ 1,625
    📶 14.3ºC
    Saturday 16 September 2017 8:20
  • Col de Razet: 1,032m
  • Colla Bassa: 1,107m
  • Room & board: Royal Westminster
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 21.33km
    ⏩ 21:39min/km
    🔄 7:41:37
    ⬆️ 1,205m
    ⬇️ 1,597m
    *️⃣ 1,617
    📶 15.3ºC
    Total ➡️ 232.10km
    ⏩ 23:14min/km
    🔄 3d:17h:52m:22s
    ⬆️ 12,182m
    ⬇️ 13,847m
    *️⃣ 12,763
    📶 16.9ºC

    Packing List

    • Backpack: Osprey Kestrel 28. The pack is versatile, light, & comfortable. Enough pockets to organize gear, attachments to hang laundry, loops to hold poles, straps to adjust fit, & capacity to hold gear for two weeks. I had extra space to carry several Ovomaltine chocolate bars & chocolate powder.
    • Toiletry bag
      • Clothes pin (4): hang washed clothes
      • USB battery charger for AA & AAA (Goal Zero Guide 10): charge headlight & tooth cleaner batteries
      • USB battery, 13,000mAh (Brookstone): charge phone & GPS watches for several days between huts. Decided against solar charger for this trip to avoid extra expense & reduce risk of running out of power
      • USB power charger with four ports
      • Lip balm
      • Tooth floss, brush, & paste
      • Electric water floss to clean between dental braces
      • Pen
      • Liquid soap (Sea to Summit)
      • Band-aid
      • Nail clipper: especially for toe nails
      • Tweezers
      • Short straps (Outdoor Research): attach to backpack
      • Electricity power plug adapter
      • USB cables (5) for Fēnix 5 watch, Suunto Spartan watch, iPhone, micro USB, & mini USB
      • CR2032 batteries (2): spare for heart rate monitor strap & temperature sensor
      • Headphones: listen to music & podcasts on phone
    • Backpack pockets:
    • Waistpack (Arc’teryx Maka 2)
      • iPhone 6s
      • Note pad & pencil: write notes about the trip & GPS measurements log
      • Pen
      • Passport
      • Cash (€ & US$)
      • Identification card
      • Global Entry card
      • Band-aid
      • Credit & debit cards
    • Me:
      • GPS watches (Garmin Fēnix 5 & Suunto Spartan)
      • Heart rate monitor strap (Wahoo KICKR): broadcast in both ANT+ & Bluetooth to work with multiple devices
      • Sun hat (Outdoor Research Sombriolet). Wide rim to protect from the sun and waterproof with ventilation to protect from the rain
      • Poles (MSR Denali III)
      • Sunglasses (Julbo Aero Zebra)
      • Trail running shoes (Salomon): comfortable, light, cool, soft, mesh top to keep feet dry: I did not get to test them in the rain. I would have used the waterproof socks
    • Missed: some items that I want to remember for the next trip
      • Spork (Snow Peak)
      • Long underwear wool pants for cool evenings
      • Thin wool gloves
      • Heart rate belt gel: improve pulse measurement
      • Playing cards with some digital copy of game guide for evenings with group


    We created this trip over two years from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. However, this second part alone is worth repeating as is.

    There are two other options to consider for a tour in this area:

    1. Start in Nice, heading north on the GR5, continue to GR52 from St Dalmas (identical itinerary to our trip), continue to Menton, take the cliff walk from Menton to Nice for a full loop.
    2. Consider the Grand Traverse of Mercantour national park. That is very similar to our itinerary, but does not always follow the GR5.

    Grandes Alpes

    Trip Report: 24 August–1 September 2017

    During a hike last year of the GR5 trail from Genève to Nice, I learned that the original came from a bicycle route: Grandes Alpes.

    The GR5 hike in 2016 was only half way through the GR5, to be completed in 2017. So it was set to arrive a week early before part II of the hike, bicycle the route, meet the group in Nice, & continue the hike.

    I would have hiked & bicycled the route des Grandes Alpes.


    List of 17 cols passed on this trip in 7 days:

    Day Name Elevation [m]
    Friday 25 August 2017 Col des Gets 1,172
    Col de la Colombière 1,613
    Col des Aravis 1,487
    Saturday Col des Saisies 1,650
    Cormet de Roselend 1,968
    Sunday Col de l’Iseran 2,770
    Col de la Madeleine 1,746
    Col du Télégraph 1,566
    Monday Col du Galibier 2,642
    Col d’Izoard 2,360
    Tuesday Col de Vars 2,109
    Col de la Cayolle 2,326
    Wednesday Col de Valberg 1,672
    Col de la Couillole 1,678
    Col Saint-Martin 1,500
    Thursday 31 August 2017 Col de Turini 1,607
    Col de Castillon 706

    Lac Léman

    It was a comfortable flight from Boston to Genève by way of Zürich, arriving on time at 7:45 on Thursday 24 August 2017.

    Weather forecast was looking clear:

    I had plenty of time that day to transfer to Thonon, pack for trip, shop for food, assemble bicycle, & mail extra luggage to Nice.

    Then suddenly I did not have much time. In Genève, my luggage did not arrive. Assuming it did not make the connection in Zürich, I waited for the next plan. And the next plane. And the next one until 12:00. When the luggage still did not arrive, I decided to get some rest in hotel, nap, confirm post office location & hours, & prepare for quick transfer when the luggage does arrive.

    The luggage did finally arrive at 16:00, with just enough time to transfer content, mail bag before post office closed at 18:00, shop for food, & pump bicycle tires before shop closed at 19:00. All was ready for the tour.


    Getting out of town, immediately there was a sign that bicycles were not allowed on that section of D902 road. No choice except to continue. There was probably another route to take, more scenic, with less traffic. But not the time to explore.

    A little while later, I started seeing other bicycles on the road. Route was better. Saw the first sign for Route des Grandes Alpes. Climbing started to the first col des Gets at 1,172m.

    Location: 46.160331°N, 6.669045°E

    Signs of Tour de France came next on climb to col de la Colombière with road markers & racer names on the road.

    Col de la Colombière at 1,613m:

    Location: 45.992103°N, 6.475447°E

    After a long descent, I started the third climb to col des Aravis at 1,487m:

    Location: 45.872320°N, 6.464942°E

    As if all this climbing of the first day was not enough, I had one last steep climb to my room at Hotel la Molliniere.


    Climb started immediately. Two bicyclists passed me at reasonable speed. Still feeling fresh early in the day, I increased my pace to keep up with them. We stayed together to col des Saisies at 1,650m:

    Location: 45.761608°N, 6.533280°E

    Big mistake. I was exhausted already while I still had Cormet de Roseland. Stopped at Lac de Roselend to rest:

    Location: 45.694997°N, 6.634992°E

    Cormet de Roseland at 1,968:

    Luckily, Tour L’Avenir bicycle race was on the same course. I was forced to evacuate the road for an extended rest ahead of the big climb.

    Nightmare of the day came on climb to Val d’Isère. Being a weekend in vacation month of August, swarms of motorcycles were passing me. No rules of the road seemed to apply to them about speed, lanes, or safe passing of other vehicles. Pollution from noise & fumes was noxious at best. I was certain to tumble off the side of the mountain any moment.

    A series of long tunnels close to town did not help my anxiety either:

    Drivers seemed aware of bicycles on this popular road. They gave me plenty of space. Front & rear flashing lights on the bicycle helped keep it visible.


    Breakfast buffet was generous at Les 5 Fréres: yogurt, apricot jam, egg, cheese, meat, meüsli, milk, & bread.

    I needed that energy to climb 13km to the highest col in France.

    I took the long steep descent to Bonneval-sur-Arc: a small town with narrow streets, farmers market, bakery, goat cheese shop, old church, & war memorial.

    From there, it was a very long, mostly boring, gradual descent through the valley, without much scenery, passing by col de la Madeleine at 1,746m:

    Location: 45.3°N, 6.9491°E

    On Sunday, almost every service was closed except for a small restaurant in Saint-Michele-de-Maurienne for water & juice.

    Traffic nightmare continued on the climb to col du Télégraph at 1,566m:

    Location: 45.2027°N, 6.4446°E

    More than motorcycles, all terrain 4×4 vehicles joined the swarm for a car show in Valloire.


    Suddenly traffic vanished & the trip redeemed. Maybe because it was Monday & the crowd returned to work. Maybe because the villages were smaller without big resorts & do not attract big crowd. Or maybe it was the end of vacation season.

    Time to Live Slow Ride Fast:

    Location: 45.089928°N, 6.431037°E

    That was just in time for spectacular scenery for remainder of the trip: big mountains, wide valleys, steep gorges, & soaring roads to col du Galibier at 2,642m:

    And col d’Izoard at 2,360m:

    Location: 44.8196°N, 6.7352°E

    Earlier, I had met Tony & Brian from MIT Cycling Team. We continued together whenever I was able to keep up.

    Refuge d’Izoard was more than just shelter from thunderstorm. There was a large display of pastries. It was hard to decide, so I tried three pieces: blueberry tart, pear tart, & lemon pudding:

    Location: 44.8229°N, 6.7333°E

    Descent was through Gorges du Guil:

    Location: 44.724116°N, 6.76256°E

    On a road carved in stone:

    Location: 44.675259°N, 6.690043°E

    The route had several trash cans with backboards for bicycles on the move:

    Location: 45.1037°N, 6.4276°E


    Today was exceptional: away from crowds & ski towns.

    Climb to col de Vars at 2,109m:

    Location: 44.548°N, 6.7028°E

    The route entered Parc national du Mercantour on small narrow roads, carved in stone as a ledge on side of high cliffs:

    Location: 44.320358°N, 6.619458°E

    Big mountains were in view throughout even when at a col de la Cayolle at 2,326m:

    Valberg-Couillole-Saint Martin

    Bakeries started to offer local Mediterranean cuisine.

    First came col de Valburg at 1,672m. Few services & ski lifts were nearby.

    Then col de la Couillole at 1,678m:

    In Saint-Sauveur, it was the pissaladière: flat bread with cooked onion & olive on top. They also had tartelette aux blettes: sweet Swiss chard pie with raisins. I waited to try that later when on the GR5 hike.

    Finally, col Saint-Martin at 1,500m with services, shops, & ski lifts nearby:

    Location: 44.0709°N, 7.2216°E

    In Saint-Martin-Vésuvie it was abricot pistache tart with a rest stop in the square:

    It was an active town with many shops & entertainment options.

    Unfortunately, my hotel was further down the mountain in a loud town that had live music in the square until midnight. It seemed fun for residents who were dancing & drinking. It was not fun for a tired bicyclist who wanted to sleep early. Saint-Martin-Vésuvie would have been a better choice.


    The main thought on my mind was le grande plungeon in the Mediterranean sea.

    Sospel came after Col de Turini at 1,607m:

    Location: 43.977°N, 7.3919°E

    I stopped there two weeks later while hiking the GR5 for extended visit.

    Two bakeries were near each other. I tried savory tartelette aux blettes, pissaladière, & brioche Suisse:

    Location: 43.8778°N, 7.4483°E

    Final climb of the trip was to col de Castillon at 706m:

    No stopping after that. It was a fast descent to the beach. Parked my bicycle. Jumped into the water:

    Cote d’Azure

    Entire day on the beach.

    Soon after leaving Menton, I took a cliff walk along the rocky coast all the way to Monte Carlo, with constant views of the sea, mountains, & mansions.

    Bicycle was not allowed on cliff walk. For good reasons: barrow, busy, & plenty of stairs. Even with light load on the bicycle, I got tired after a while carrying it up & down.

    Monte Carlo was a collection of enormous yachts larger than small ships, expensive sports cars, & private mansions.

    Nice had a bicycle path along the beach. Sun was bright. Sky was blue.

    Nice was beatiful. I had arrived.

    I spent the next two days tasting local bakeries, fresh fruits, & sweets from Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya.

    Some pâte d’amande:

    Location: 43.695480°N, 7.275080°E

    Some fruits confits glacés: clémentine & abricot:

    Location: 43.695728°N, 7.274437°E


    Day Places Log
    Thursday 24 August 2017
  • Transferred from Genève airport to city center Cornavin station, took bus 61 to Annemasse train station in France, took SNCF train to Thonon-les-Bain
  • Lodging: 30€ at Côté Chalet Résidence Hostel
  • Used local post office in Thonon-les-Bain to ship bicycle case & backpacking gear to Nice. Cheaper to send them within country than from Switzerland.
  • Friday 8:03
  • Col des Gets: 1,172m
  • Col de la Colombière: 1,613m
  • Col des Aravis: 1,487m
  • Bed & breakfast: 53€ at Hôtel Restaurant Brasserie Laverie “La Mollinière”
  • Log data as recorded by Garmin Edge 820e.

    Map from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track.

    Earth view of route.

    ➡️ Distance 119.09km
    ⏩ Speed 13.52km/h
    🔄 Duration 8h:48m:39s
    ⬆️ Ascent 2,816m
    ⬇️ Descent 2,102m
    *️⃣ Calories 4,690
    📶 Temperature 22.5ºC

    Saturday 8:46
  • Col des Saisies: 1,650m
  • Cormet de Roselend: 1,968m
  • Bed & generous breakfast: 52€ at Les 5 Frères
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view.
    ➡️ 99.2km
    ⏩ 11.1km/h
    🔄 8:56:31
    ⬆️ 2,893m
    ⬇️ 2,236m
    *️⃣ 4,418
    📶 22.7ºC
    Sunday 9:18
  • Col de l’Iseran: 2,770m
  • Col de la Madeleine: 1,746m
  • Col du Télégraph: 1,566m
  • Bed & breakfast: 79€ at Le Relais du Galibier
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 109.58km
    ⏩ 14.0km/h
    🔄 7:50:54
    ⬆️ 2,056m
    ⬇️ 2,309m
    *️⃣ 4,161
    📶 24.3ºC
    Monday 8:06
  • Col du Galibier: 2,642m
  • Col d’Izoard: 2,360m
  • Bed & breakfast: 30€ at Auberge de Jeunesse de Guillestre
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 102.72km
    ⏩ 14.6km/h
    🔄 7:03:04
    ⬆️ 2,248m
    ⬇️ 2,747m
    *️⃣ 4,250
    📶 22.1ºC
    Tuesday 8:46
  • Col de Vars: 2,109m
  • Col de la Cayolle: 2,326m
  • Bed & breakfast: 65€ at Gîte Le Pelens
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 101.64km
    ⏩ 13.1km/h
    🔄 7:44:49
    ⬆️ 2,283m
    ⬇️ 2,198m
    *️⃣ 3,989
    📶 24.2ºC
    Wednesday 9:07
  • Col de Valberg: 1,672m
  • Col de la Couillole: 1,678m
  • Col Saint-Martin: 1,500m
  • Lodging: 49€ at Hôtel des Sports
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 93.84km
    ⏩ 12.1km/h
    🔄 7:45:38
    ⬆️ 2,134m
    ⬇️ 2,534m
    *️⃣ 3,750
    📶 26.2ºC
    Thursday 8:16
  • Col de Turini: 1,607m
  • Col de Castillon: 706m
  • Lodging: $97.64 at Quality Hotel Méditerranée booked through Hotwire
  • Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 65.25km
    ⏩ 12.8km/h
    🔄 5:04:44
    ⬆️ 1,421m
    ⬇️ 2,013m
    *️⃣ 2,646
    📶 21.9ºC
    ➡️ 691.30km
    ⏩ 12.99km/h
    🔄 2d:5h:14m:19s
    ⬆️ 15,851m
    ⬇️ 16,139m
    *️⃣ 27,904
    📶 23.5ºC
    Friday 1 September 2017 8:19 Lodging: 40.25€ at Villa Saint Exupery Garmin, Strava, & earth view
    ➡️ 37.35km
    ⏩ 6.2km/h
    🔄 5:59:01
    ⬆️ 461m
    ⬇️ 443m
    *️⃣ 1,000
    📶 30.7ºC

    Packing List

    Credit card tour: I carried very little gear, slept in hotels, & bought food along the way. Whatever I needed fit into the handlebar bag.

    I washed day clothes in the evening to dry overnight. Whatever does not dry, I hung on the bicycle next day. This was often the case with chamois on bicycle shorts. I had another pair of bicycle shorts to use while the other was drying.

    Below is a list of every single items, regardless of size or weight, that I had with me, on me, & on the bicycle.

    • Bike Friday: for all roads, travels easy, & reliable. It has been with me on plenty of trips.
      • Water bottles (2)
      • Front light: Light & Motion Urban, use it in flash mode for visibility during the day
      • Wahoo Elemnt GPS: navigate & record trip data. Reliable, easy to use, & completely wireless
      • Garmin Edge 820e GPS: record data for redundancy & compare with Elemnt
      • Wahoo mount on stem
      • Garmin mount on handlebar bag extension
      • Saddle bag
      • Handlebar bag
      • Rear light: Knog Blinder with many flashing modes, stays on all day, bright light
      • Pump
      • Lock & key
    • Saddle bag: Ortlieb Micro water proof bag to keep the tools dry & avoid rust
      • Patch kit
      • Spare tube
      • Tire levers
      • Multi-tool: hex wrenches & chain breaker
    • Handlebar bag: Ortlieb Ultimate 6M+ with 7 liters capacity
      • Tooth floss
      • Tooth brush
      • Tooth paste
      • USB charger with four ports
      • Mini USB charging cable
      • Micro USB charging cable (2)
      • iPhone charging cable
      • Garmin Fēnix 5 charging cable
      • Suunto Spartan charging cable
      • USB battery: Goal Zero Flip 30 to charge phone, GPS, & lights as needed
      • Wall electric outlet adapter for France
      • Band-aid
      • Hydration tables: Hammer Nutrition Race Caps Supreme 3–5 tablets per day
      • Sun screen
      • Notebook
      • Pencil
      • Chamois cream: Assos
      • Running shorts: change into in the evening
      • Rain jacket
      • Rain pants
      • Hat
      • Shirt
      • Rain shell mittens
      • Booties rain socks
      • Bicycle shorts liner
      • CR2032 batteries (2)
      • Mounting bracket for handlebar bag
      • Front light Ortlieb extender for handlebar bag
    • Me
      • Helmet
      • Heart rate monitor strap: Wahoo Tickr to work with both ANT+ & Bluetooth devices
      • Gloves half finger
      • Bicycle shorts liner
      • Ankle cuffs for pants
      • Sun glasses
      • Mirror
      • Long thin pants: Arc’teryx Rampart to protect from sun, dry quickly from rain or sweat
      • Long sleeve sun shirt
      • Sandals: Keen waterproof with SPD cleats
      • Socks
      • Fēnix 5 watch
      • Suunto Spartan watch
      • Waist pack
    • Waist pack: Arc’teryx Maka 2, versatile, spacious, multiple pockets, easy access while moving or walking into a store.
      • iPhone
      • Headphone
      • Passport
      • Lip balm
      • Credit card
      • Cash

    Farms, Bakeries, & Nashua River Trail

    Day Trip Report: 30 July 2017

    Sun finally. It had been rainy & cold for several days. So large group of people were ready for a nice bicycle tour. Some 30 of them were at the station when I arrived on the train with a few others.

    I took Fitchburg line of MBTA Commuter Rail, leaving Concord at 9:15 arriving Ayer at 9:38. It was on time.

    After a brief safety talk with the group, we split into different paces, & got on the trail for a short distance to Groton. We stopped to supply food for picnic at the park two hours later. First choice was Bliss Bakery:

    Location: 42.606868°N, 71.569171°W

    There is also a Natural Market & Salt & Light Café.

    West of Groton, routes 225 & 2A were somewhat busy with cars for about 12km, but had wide shoulders. Then we switched to small quiet roads for the remainder of the tour.

    A couple on a tandem with toddler in tow started with us at the train station, with intent of round trip to Pearl Hill pond. By the time I arrived, they were already there & their son already playing in the water.

    Of course I also jumped in:

    Location: 42.656901°N, 71.758013°W

    We rested & ate snacks at the picnic table. There was also a water fountain to fill bottles.

    Very few stops were available until Hollis, unless we needed a break from rolling hills.

    On the other side of town was Lull Farm:

    Location: 42.743928°N, 71.577950°W

    Local peach, watermelon, yogurt, & milk were available:

    Large section for bread & pastries:

    Soon after the farm, we entered the Nashua River Trail from its northern terminus all the way to the southern terminus in Ayer.

    A few short sections on the trail were rough from undergrowth of tree roots. Otherwise, very pleasant, in the shade, & many benches to rest on.

    Shops in Groton were closed by 15:30 on Sunday afternoon. Instead, we continued to Ayer train station & waited for the train at 16:05.


    • Map from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track.
      • Distance ➡️ 92.26km
      • Speed ⏩ 15.6km/h
      • Duration 🔄 5h:55m:22s
      • Ascent ⬆️ 692m
      • Descent ⬇️ 696m
      • Calories *️⃣ 2,545
      • Temperature 📶 23.3ºC
    • Feature:
    • Variations
      • Shorter loop: continue on train to Fitchburg station, navigate to meet the route near Pearl Hill State Park, continue on the same route to return by train from Ayer.
      • Easy trail ride: stay on Nashua River Trail for the entire day. Start in Ayer, stop in Groton to supply with food, continue on the trail all the way to northern terminus, & then turn back. Total should be about 40km with little elevation gain.


    Day Trip Report: 16 July 2017

    I had recently learned about many bakery options in Providence, so I had to make a visit. In fact, I created several itineraries that include bakery visit in Providence. This was the first one I explored.

    The route started from Charles/MGH subway station along Charles River:

    Location: 42.359241°N, 71.073125°W

    I was not sure how riding will be through busy city streets, between cars, & with little scenery. It turned out that Beacon street offered bicycle lanes & wide shoulders on long stretches:

    Location: 42.339776°N, 71.132124°W

    The scenery was pleasant to explore unique neighborhoods of Boston College, Newton, & Wellesley:

    Location: 42.330222°N, 71.194672°W

    Many of them reminded me of the route I ran just a few months earlier for Boston Marathon.

    Eighty minutes later, I arrived The Common Café & Bakery just in time for rest & snack. Options included stacks of pancakes, fresh parfait, & thick French toast:

    Location: 42.283253°N, 71.347380°W

    I sat for a few minutes across the street in Natick Green before proceeding south onto some suburban & rural quiet roads. They were narrow, well paved, twisty, & fun to be on bicycle.

    Location: 42.172255°N, 71.317437°W

    In Dover Market, while not ready yet for another snack, Avelines hazelnut Swiss chocolate did not count. I had to try one:

    Location: 42.244850°N, 71.282067°W

    Deli, cheese shop, & other Swiss chocolates were available.

    Popular bicycle destination was Blue Moon Bagel Café & bakery:

    Location: 42.194050°N, 71.288680°W

    I carried asiago & jalapeño bagels with me for the road to eat later in Franklin Green: rest, snack, & nap in gazebo:

    Location: 42.089231°N, 71.401650°W

    Along the way, I found the gift shop for Trappistine chocolate, made with love & prayers by Sisters of Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey:

    Location: 42.040658°N, 71.394180°W

    The shop was closed on Sunday. However, through a small visitor center, there was a limited selection of chocolate boxes for purchase.

    The route was about to get even better closer to Providence on the paved Blackstone River trail:

    Location: 41.912450°N, 71.408630°W

    The trail ends before arriving Providence, but there were plenty of signs to navigate through side streets. I made my way to Seven Stars bakery:

    Selection was large. Bread choice was heard. But of course I got olive bread:

    Location: 41.849555°N, 71.394880°W

    Knead & PV donut shops were closed by then. I will have to visit them another time.

    I got on the train at 16:56 to arrive Boston at 18:07.


    • Route map & log from Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track
      • Distance ➡️ 111.16km
      • Speed ⏩ 15.3km/h
      • Duration 🔄 7h:15m:54s
      • Ascent ⬆️ 807m
      • Descent ⬇️ 806m
      • Calories *️⃣ 3,315
      • Temperature 📶 27.2ºC
    • Food:
    • Places:
    • Variations:
      • Start from Natick train station. Take Framingham/Worcester train from Boston at 8:40 to arrive at 9:20. Get breakfast at Bakery at the Common. Continue route as is, less 28km.
      • Try the route in reverse! Take train in the morning from Boston to Providence & bicycle back to Boston along the same route.

    Cape Cod Rail Trail

    Trip report 23–25 June 2017

    Family-friendly bicycle tour of Cape Cod: bicycle path, farmers’ market, salt water taffy, ice cream, bakeries, lighthouses, & many beaches to play at.

    We met on Friday evening in Eastham hostel, set in a wooded area with common space, eating area, open play space, & small cabins. We spent the weekend visiting many attractions along the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) going out to Orleans farmers’ market, Nickerson State Park, Coast Guard beach, Nauset lighthouse, PB Boulangerie bakery, Flax pond, & much more.

    The route was mostly flat, with many services & food stops along the way to purchase meals & snacks.

    Friday: Rock Harbor Beach

    We arrived Friday afternoon to find our cabin, meet the group, & explore the area.

    There was plenty of space for the kids to play frisbee, hang the hammocks, & chase each other.

    Later we took a short bicycle ride to Rock Harbor beach.

    Initially, we wanted to get dinner from the seafood shack near Rock Harbor beach. But they were running out of supplies when we arrived minutes before closing at 18:00. Instead, we spent time on the beach chasing crabs & getting feet wet:

    Location: 41.800087°N, 70.008461°W

    We traced our route back toward Orleans for dinner at Guapo’s Tortilla Shack.

    Our group had a mix of 8-bed & 4-bed cabins: bunk beds, limited electricity outlets to charge devices, outdoor showers. The main building had indoor showers, restrooms, kitchen, dining area, & wireless internet.

    Saturday: Nickerson State Park

    Weather forecast was for heavy rain in late morning. We opted to proceed with our bicycle plan regardless.

    But first we had a healthy breakfast of cereal, juice, fruit, & blueberry pancakes.

    The hostel is a short distance away from CCRT. Within 15 minutes, we arrived Orleans to shop for bread at farmers’ market & bagels at Jo Mama’s.

    Location: 41.787172°N, 69.994133°W

    Then we proceeded to Nickerson State Park to find shelter from the expected rain. Once there, the group decided to continue on bicycle, rain or shine.

    One group decided to take the park roller coaster trail with many quick hills & some dirt tracks:

    Location: 41.77327°N, 70.02903°W

    Another group continue on the main CCRT.

    This was when the rain started coming down. Heavily. We got soaked. No matter. We had a blast on the park trail, with the thrill of steep short hills followed by quick descents. The dirt trail was plenty fun, difficult at times, just what the kids asked for!

    In the afternoon, the sun came out warm & bright to dry all the wet gear we had:

    Location: 41.802355°N, 69.990451°W

    Back at the hostel, we had a choice of indoor or outdoor shower before hearty dinner that we ordered from The Corner Store:

    Location: 41.786767°N, 69.990020°W

    They offered whoopie pies in triple chocolate, peanut butter, red velvet, strawberry, coconut, & classic.

    No. Whoopie pies were not our dinner! We ordered burritos & salads.

    Sunday: Coast Guard Beach

    We had an amazing plan to visit the best bakery & the best beach on Cape Cod.

    We started for a short distance on the CCRT before turning right to join Nauset trail for a winding ride through forest & marsh area:

    Location: 41.843761°N, 69.950867°W

    The trail ended at Coast Guard beach. There were changing rooms, restrooms, showers, & endless sand for the kids to play on.

    We had an extended stop there resting & body surfing on the waves. Then everyone was ready for lunch.

    We returned to CCRT by way of Nauset lighthouse & The Three Sisters:

    Location: 41.858847°N, 69.957283°W

    We continued to the northern terminus of the trail to visit PB Boulangerie for chocolate almond croissant, bread, & soup:

    Location: 41.916820°N, 69.989288°W


    Day Service Log
    Friday 23 June 2017 Eastham hostel: stayed here for the weekend, both nights.
    Dinner at Guapo’s Tortilla Shack
    Saturday 9:06
  • Orleans Farmer’s Market
  • Corner Store
  • Jo Mama’s
  • Map: Strava & Garmin: download GPX route data
  • Distance ➡️ 32.73km
  • Speed ⏩ 6.2km/h
  • Duration 🔄 5h:16m:55s
  • Ascent ⬆️ 154m
  • Temperature 📶 19.6ºC
  • Sunday 9:30 PB Boulangeire

  • Map: Strava & Garmin
  • ➡️ 34.48km
  • ⏩ 6.2km/h
  • 🔄 5h:34m:12s
  • ⬆️ 139m
  • 📶 27.2ºC
  • Packing List


    Small portable games to share: rackets, frisbee, cards, ball, puzzles, kite, Sequence, Sorry, SET, & others.


    Extra towels, sun screen, goggles, & change of clothes.


    Bicycle Bag

    The most comfortable option for carrying gear, clothes, & food is inside panniers mounted on a bicycle rack. These relieve back pain & keep better balance.

    Otherwise, small backpack with such gear, ideally with a waist strap to keep it steady.


    A bunk with mattress, sheets, pillow, pillow case, & blankets are provided. Cabins are not heated. Bring extra sweater, jacket, or sleeping sack. Personal linens & sleeping bags are not permitted.

    Bathrooms are outside the cabins, in the main building. Bring headlight to walk out at night.


    • Rain gear
    • Casual clothing, vest, jacket, sweater
    • Warm clothing
    • Lunch food, snacks, & money to purchase
    • Navigation tools: GPS device & phone with navigation apps


    The following is a long list of items to bring. Use it as a reminder of additional items that can make your trip and rides more comfortable.

    • Bicycle Clothing
      • Vest
      • Socks
      • Gloves
      • Sunglasses
    • Bicycle Gear
    • Casual Clothing
      • Shoes, sandals, or flip flops
      • Slacks
      • T-shirt
      • Long-sleeve shirt
      • Jacket
      • Swim suite, goggles, & towel
    • Accessories
      • Toothbrush
      • Lip balm
      • Toothpaste
      • Razor
      • Shaving cream
      • Contact lens solution & case
      • Glasses
      • Flashlight or head lamp
      • Mobile phone & charger
      • Deodorant
      • Comb (or light hat for the evening)
      • Sunscreen
      • Camera & battery charger
      • GPS, power charger, bicycle mount


    WiFi was available at the hostel.

    Mobile phone reception was available throughout the entire trip.

    Phone Navigation

    Used MAPS.ME app for phone navigation. Prepare these steps ahead of the trip when you have internet connection.

    • Install MAPS.ME app on your iPhone or Android phone.
    • Open the app
    • Open menu options from the three horizontal bars at the bottom right corner
    • Select Download Maps
    • In the subsequent menus, navigate to find the country & region to download maps for
    • Download map for United Stats of America: Massachusetts: Barnstable

    Social Network

    We used Rudel app to share location of other participants on the trip.

    Share your location anonymously in real time. No login, email, or phone number required.

    The battery drains quickly when using this app. Watch it closely, use it when needed, & carry extra battery with you.


    This is one of several trips we have made to Cape Cod, with different ideas, itineraries, destinations, & duration.

    Pioneer Valley

    Trip Report: 27–29 May 2017

    The triangle between Northampton, Brattleboro, & Keene towns is an obvious bicycle tour destination.

    Location: 42.568797°N, 72.591325°W

    All three offer small walking street, bicycles trails, art shops, ice cream parlors, & hearty meals in co-op markets. We even got the chance to watch the new release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales.


    A bakery had to be near the start point. A location close to both Boston & New York helped for the group coming from both.

    We met Saturday morning in the parking lot on Hampton Avenue. We only had to pay $2.50 for Saturday while Sunday & Monday were free due to holiday. Sylvester’s breakfast café & bakery were near by for bread & granola:

    Location: 42.318387°N, 72.628137°W

    A bikeway leads out of town to small roads along the Connecticut river, passing by Mount Sugarloaf. Some decided to bicycle up to the summit on a very steep road that was well worth it:

    Location: 42.469903°N, 72.592147°W

    Closer to Greenfield, we got on long stretches of trails with direct view of the river, where the kids had more opportunity to ride next to each other & chat:

    Location: 42.598338°N, 72.568267°W

    In Turner Falls was our extended lunch break at 2nd Street Bakery of soup & cranberry walnut braid bread:

    Location: 42.606280°N, 72.555612°W

    Of course followed by Country Creemee ice cream:

    Location: 42.608833°N, 72.556345°W

    Then we got to see the falls on the way out of town:

    Location: 42.610717°N, 72.553353°W

    We still had about half way left on pleasant roads on small rolling hills, except a big one when leaving Turner Falls. No specific stops on this part of the day other than occasional. snack stops by the side of the road.

    Until Brattleboro. We checked into Latchis Hotel & Theater. The best part of dinner was a slide of fresh bread & maple Greek yogurt from the Co-op:

    Location: 42.850730°N, 72.557838°W

    It was tempting to watch a movie at the theater. But we saved that for next day in Keene when we would have more time.


    We had two route options open to group preference. Both started out of town, crossing the border from Vermont to New Hampshire:

    Location: 42.884925°N, 72.555795°W

    Then traveled along the Connecticut river north, before splitting.

    Most of the group decided to go with the shorter route briefly along route NH-12 before taking the Cheshire Rail Trail. It was rough initially with rocks & roots. But they had to keep moving away from bugs. Later, the trail was smoother as it got closer to town. They took advantage of a stop at Yolo Frozen Yogurt & swim in hotel pool.

    Meanwhile, I continued with two others north back in Vermont for big lunch at Miss Bellows Falls diner.

    With full stomach, next was a hill. A big long hill with steep sections between colorful neighborhood:

    Location: 43.082356°N, 72.351050°W

    It was a very sweet descent & fast ride to reach Surry Mountain beach for a dip in cold water:

    Location: 43.004029°N, 72.317487°W

    In Keene, it was time for dinner, movie (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales), & von Trapp Bock Bier (A little of Austria, a lot of Vermont):


    This last day was about covered bridges. It was also the longest with rain in forecast late morning.

    Just outside of Keene, we arrived at Cresson covered bridge:

    Location: 42.88624°N, 72.286638°W

    Thompson covered bridge circa 1832:

    Location: 42.871925°N, 72.327675°W

    Slate covered bridge 2001:

    Location: 42.847477°N, 72.340352°W

    Coombs covered bridge 1837:

    Location: 42.837912°N, 72.360912°W

    With bonus sight later of French King bridge:

    Location: 42.59585°N, 72.49593°W

    We caught two Memorial Day parades: the first one in Winchester, NH:

    Location: 42.773255°N, 72.383559°W

    The second was in Northfield, MA.

    Drops of rain started to come down. It was an opportunity while watching the parade to wear our rain gear.

    Wet & cold, we pressed on to reach The Lady Killigrew Café & Pub for lunch:

    Location: 42.537955°N, 72.537317°W

    We stayed there for two and a half hours to dry, warm, eat, & wait for rain to subside.

    But we only had a third of the way to go, ever so slightly downhill with the river, & a long section on Norwottuck trail between Amherst & Northampton.

    We arrive in good time before 17:00 to eat a snack & return home.


    Day Places Log
    Saturday 27 May 2017 10:49
  • Sylvester’s breakfast café & bakery
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • 2nd Street Bakery
  • Country Creemee ice cream
  • Map Garmin & Strava: download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track
  • Distance ➡️ 79.40km
  • Speed ⏩ 10.6km/h
  • Duration 🔄 7h:28m:10s
  • Ascent ⬆️ 531m
  • Temperature 📶 20.5ºC
  • Sunday 9:25
  • Miss Bellows Falls diner
  • Surry Mountain beach
  • Map Garmin & Strava
  • ➡️ 75.74km
  • ⏩ 10.1km/h
  • 🔄 7h:30m:56s
  • ⬆️ 809m
  • 📶 21.0ºC
  • Monday 8:02
  • Cresson covered bridge
  • Thompson covered bridge
  • Slate covered bridge
  • Coombs covered bridge
  • French King bridge
  • The Lady Killigrew Café
  • Map Garmin & Strava
  • ➡️ 93.60km
  • ⏩ 11.0km/h
  • 🔄 8h:31m:36s
  • ⬆️ 524m
  • 📶 11.2ºC
  • Total

  • ➡️ 248.7km
  • ⏩ 10.58km/h
  • 🔄 23h:30m:42s
  • ⬆️ 1,864m
  • 📶 17.3ºC
  • Garden Route to Cape Town

    Trip Prospectus: 1–18 November 2018

    Along the white beaches of the Indian Ocean, through evergreen forests and the desolate Karoo, through the wild solitude of the Swartberg Mountains, in the Wine lands of the Cape and further to Cape Town, one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world. Mountain passes, solitary gorges, breathtaking coastline—all on very good, European standard roads. From November to March is the South African summer, which means, cycling with lots of sun in warm temperatures in the Cape Province.

    Dual Ride Options

    We will offer two ride options daily:

    • Moderate: effort will be 50% of normal, given the pedal-assist electronic bicycle. This group will cover about 65km (40mi) during the day with about 600m (2,000ft) elevation gain, at average moving speed of 15–22km/h (10–14mph). Some days may have shorter distance & higher elevation. Other days may be the opposite.
    • Advanced: compared with the moderate, this group will go longer (100km average, higher (1,000m average), and faster (20–30km/h average).

    Both groups will not drop anyone behind. We will frequently regroup. We will have backup plans to cut the day short when we must.

    At a minimum everyone on the trip must be able to join the moderate rides daily.


    We will offer two bicycle options:

    • Electric pedal-assist bicycles: default bicycles, unless you want a regular bicycle, then you need to speak with the leaders.
      • Put 50% of the effort or cover double the distance.
      • These are not “motor-bicycles”. They do not drive on their own. They simply assist you as you pedal. You still have to put the effort & retain full control of the bicycle.
      • The electric motor does not assist when speed is higher than 25km/h (16mph).
      • This is a great option for those who want to enjoy the full experience for the trip, joining the advanced rides, with less fitness requirement.

    • Road performance bicycles: you get a road bicycle with carbon frame & Shimano 105 compact group.

    Vehicle Support

    Our accompanying vehicle transports your luggage, water, & snacks. It also transports participants & bicycles based on route itinerary. There will be times when we have either a remote start or stop. That will require transfer from or to our lodging destination.

    All participants are expected to be self-sufficient while on the road with extra food, bicycle repair equipment, tubes, clothing layers, etc.


    We overnight in selected guesthouses, lodges and small hotels in a personal & relaxed atmosphere.

    Facilities range from ★★ to ★★★★, depending on the area we are staying in. Such information is indicated in itinerary where available.
    All rooms are double occupancy.


    All distance & elevation information are approximate based on representative maps.

    The leaders reserve the right to change the itinerary for reasons such as weather, road conditions, availability of accommodations, group preference, etc.

    Destination Route Moderate Advanced
    Thursday 1 November 2018: depart the US on evening flight This departure date is highly dependent on flight route. Depart on Thursday for low cost flights over two days.
    Friday 2 November For US departure on Thursday, arrive in Europe for connecting flight, with extended full day stay to tour the city & relax from travel.

    Another option is to depart US on Friday on more expensive flight with quick connection in Europe.

    Saturday 3 November: arrive Port Elizabeth (PLZ) Relax, adjust, & recover from flight
    Sunday 4 November: Transfer in group shuttle to Addo Elephant National Park. Game drive in the National Park. Lodge ★★★★ Relax, swim in the pool, & check the bicycles. Take a game drive in the open jeep in Addo Elephant National Park. Apart from the elephants there are also, amongst others, zebra, lions, buffalo, ostrich, tortoise, warthogs and bontebok. Transfer to Humansdorp on the Garden Route.
    Monday 5 November: Cycle Humansdorp–Tsitsikamma. Stay at a charming lodge ★★★ Along the old Cape road our first afternoon ride takes us along the boundary of the Tsitsikamma Mountain Range. ➡️70km
    Tuesday 6 November: Cycle Tsitsikamma National Park–Plettenberg Bay. Transfer to Knysna to a comfortable lodge ★★★★. Knysna is famous for its ‘Heads’, two steep, towering cliffs, which mark the entrance to Knysna Lagoon Our second ride takes us into the Tsitsikamma National Park. Visit the Storms River Bridge. Once on the coastal plateau again, we are soon taken down into the deeply cut river valley of the Bloukrans and later through Nature’s Valley. A break on one of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches. Back to the plateau and towards the seaside resort of Plettenberg Bay. To Natures Valley:
    Wednesday 7 November: Cycle Groot Brakrivier – Oudtshoorn. We stay for two nights in a charming historic guesthouse ★★★★ After a transfer to Groot Brakrivier our ride takes us over the Robinson Pass Pass (850m) with beautiful views back along the coastline. Within a few kilometers the landscape changes from the evergreen coast to the dry expanse of the Little Karoo. The host invites us to a traditional South African barbecue evening, called a Braai. Of course, ostrich steak cannot be missing! Ruiterbos to Oudtshoorn:
    Thursday 8 November: Cycle to Cango Caves and Ostrich Farm From the ostrich town of Oudtshoorn we cycle through Schoemanns Gorge to the well-known Cango Dripstone Caves. After the visit carry on to an Ostrich farm where you learn more about this curious bird. ➡️60km

    Optional transfer to nearby De Rust & ride through beautiful Meiringspoort: ➡️48km ⬆️250m

    Friday 9 November: cycle Oudtshoorn–Calitzdorp–Ladismith. We stay overnight in a simple but clean guesthouse ★★ We cycle on level ground to Calitzdorp, which is well-known for its port wine. After a lunch stop, we cycle up to the Huis River Pass (670m). Along the Swartberg Mountains we reach Ladismith, with the over 2,000m Towerkop towering over it. To Calitzdorp:
    Saturday 10 November: cycle Ladismith – Barrydale. Stay at the charming Karoo Hotel ★★★ Through the grand expanse of the Little Karoo, full of unique succulent plants, we reach Barrydale a little hamlet on the foothills of the Langeberg Mountain. ➡️80km
    Sunday 11 November: cycle Barrydale–Montagu. The hot springs, for which Montagu is famous, are very close to our comfortable hotel ★★★★. A benefit for our tired cyclist muscles! Lots of indigenous Fynbos plants like protea and heath can be found. Following the Langeberg Mountains we climb on top of Op die Tradouw Pass (950m) before following the undulating route into wonderful Montagu, a wine town in the Cape Mountains. Barrydale to Montagu:
    Pretty Tradouw gorge across the Langeberg Mountains:
    Monday 12 November: rest day There are many leisure excursions to be considered, hiking in the Bloupont region, drive with a tractor and trailer on the 1,400m high Papageikop, golf in Robertson, wine tasting on a wine estate in the Breede river valley, Montagu museum, or simply relax by the pool.
    Tuesday 13 November: cycle Montagu–Bonnivale–Robertson. Stay in a beautiful guesthouse in the winemaking town of Robertson. Today we continue cycling through the charming Kogmanns Gorge after which the landscape opens up. We ride through the Bree River Valley with vineyards on either side of us to Bonnivale. Along the way we might stop at a winery and do another wine tasting. Different route in between and joins the Valley road at Bonnivale:
    Wednesday 14 November: cycle Robertson–Worcester–Wellington. Stay in comfortable cottages on a lovely wine estate. In front of the impressive backdrop of the over 2,000m Hex River Mountains we cycle through the Bree River Valley to Worcester. We pass wine estates before entering the idyllic Bainskloof Gorge and ride up onto Bainskloof Pass (600m). Along the way there is a chance to swim in one of many natural river pools. After a long downward ride, with wonderful views over the Cape Vineyards, we reach the winemaking town of Wellington. Start riding from Worcester to Wellington:
    Thursday 15 November: cycle Kleinmond–Gordons Bay. We will stay in a ★★★★ hotel not far from the sea and waterfront. The seafood cuisine in Cape Town is outstanding with lobster being their specialty and also affordable. A short transfer takes you to Stellenbosch, the second oldest settlement in the country with lots of nice homes build in the unique Cape-Dutch style. We do a guided walk pointing out the most interesting ones. We start riding from nearby Kleinmond and cycle together along the beautiful False Bay coast line to Gordon’s Bay. With a bit of luck we can spot some Southern Right Whales in the bay whilst riding! A short transfer brings us to Cape Town, one of the most beautiful situated cities in the world. ➡️50km
    Friday 16 November: cycle around Cape of Good Hope Transfer to Simonstown where we visit a penguin colony. Start of the awesome ride around the Cape of Good Hope. In the National Park we might find Eland and Bontebok antelope as well as Baboon and Cape Zebra. On the Western side of the Cape Peninsula we cycle along the Atlantic Ocean back to Cape Town. The coastal road over Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay are truly one of the most breathtaking stretches in South Africa. It is not by chance that the popular annual Cape Town Cycle Tour, with over 35,000 participants from all over the world, takes place here. Start at Cape of Good Hope & ride all the way back to Cape Town:
    Saturday 17 November: Transfer to Cape Town Airport. Return to US Before the airport transfer and depending on your flight departure time, you may have time to do the following, go up Table Mountain and enjoy the amazing views over the town (optional), or for example visit the prison cell on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held captive for the majority of his prison sentence (optional). This versatile tour ends with your transfer to Cape Town Airport
    Sunday 18 November: arrive US



    You should enjoy traveling and be comfortable traveling in areas which are unfamiliar to you. You should recognize that you may find yourself in closer quarters or be less comfortable than you are used to at home. You should make it a priority to help others on the trip and contribute to their having a great time. If you do that, we guarantee that you will have a great time.

    Experience & Risks

    People wishing to participate in this trip must have previous group bicycle experience, at the intermediate level or higher. Several of the days are long and strenuous. You need to be prepared to commit yourself to keeping in shape between the time you sign up for the trip to the time you depart on it.

    When you participate in this activity, you should be prepared both physically and mentally, and equipped with the appropriate gear. You should always be aware of the risks involved and conduct yourself accordingly. We are not responsible for your safety—you are.

    Nonetheless, it may happen on any trip that a leader decides that a trip member is or becomes unable to participate in one or more of the planned activities. Leaders in their sole judgment have the right and obligation to refuse participation in any activity to any group member for reasons of safety, whether it be of the group or of the individual. Illness, injury or lack of proper gear or fitness for a particular activity are examples of some conditions that might result in a participant’s being unable to perform one or more activities. Leaders may try to find a substitute activity for the trip member, but this may not always be possible.

    Prior to your being accepted as a participant in this trip, you will be asked to discuss your capabilities and experience with us. Please do not be offended by our questions.

    Weather is likely to be temperate and sunny, although there is always a possibility of precipitation. That said, climate is unpredictable and can range from 30-80℉.


    The final trip cost will be adjusted in accordance with the best final arrangements we can make and currency fluctuations. Any savings we achieve, as well as any cost increases, will be passed back to you. Our cost estimates are conservative, and so a refund is considerably more likely than a price increase.

    Cost is US$3,999 per person shared occupancy. Deposit of US$1,000 is due with application. Balance of US$2,999 is due by 1 April 2018.


    • Fifteen nights of lodging.
    • Breakfast and dinner for the entire trip, starting with dinner on 3 November through breakfast on 17 November 2018.
    • Van transport & support as a scheduled part of the itinerary.
    • Emergency medical & evacuation insurance coverage.

    Does not include:

    • Airfare. The trip leaders will advise you as much as you need and will facilitate group travel. At this time, we estimate that the cost for a round trip ticket between the US East Coast and South Africa will be in the range of $1,500–$2,000.
    • Lunches, beverages, & incidental expenses.
    • Local transport between arrival airport & beginning of trip.
    • Local transport between end of trip & departure airport.
    • Insurance for travel delay, interruption, cancellation, or for baggage loss. If the possibility of such problems concerns you, individual travel insurance is suggested. The AMC has a recommended vendor whose material will be sent to you if your application is accepted.


    We expect a group size of 16 people, including the 2 leaders. This trip is likely to fill quickly. If you are interested, you should apply as soon as possible. When registration is complete, we will send all participants the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all those going on the trip.

    To apply, you must download, complete, and submit the application documents which consist of:

    You will not be accepted and your check will not be deposited until the leaders have determined by telephone conversation with you that you and the trip are a good match. Deposit checks from wait-listed applicants will not be cashed until a spot is available, the applicant is accepted onto the trip, & they confirmed their continued interest.

    Participant cancellation policy

    Cancellation will not be allowed to raise the cost to the other participants or to the leaders.

    The minimum cancellation fee is $500 once the trip has been declared a go. If actual costs (expenses already incurred on your behalf, and any unavoidable future expenses that will be incurred as a result of your registration & cancellation) are higher, they will be assessed instead, unless they can be applied toward another acceptable participant.

    Trip cancellation policy

    In the unlikely event that the trip is cancelled, everything you have paid to AMC for this trip will be refunded in full.

    Participants are responsible for their own airline tickets & other external expenses. Most airlines no longer give refunds for cancellations; instead, they issue coupons for a future trip with an administrative charge and an expiration date. Trip cancellation insurance is advised—policy information will be supplied to all participants.


    AMC Adventure Travel trips are run on a nonprofit basis. Leaders are not compensated except for their travel and administrative costs associated with the trip. A program fee is assessed toward AMC Adventure Travel program and administrative expenses.


    Mike Barry

    Mike has been biking since junior high and has been leading rides with the AMC since he moved here in the 1990s. He leads rides from evening rides to local day trips to regional weekends to week long tours in New England and in Tuscany and the Czech Republic for AMCs Adventure Travel Program.

    Rami Haddad

    Rami is an active AMC leader with Adventure Travel, Bicycle, Ski, & Family committees. He travelled throughout the Alps region on several trips for hiking, bicycle touring, sightseeing, Boston Marathon, & Ironman Switzerland. He has been on extended trekking & bicycle tours through the Pacific Northwest, Pacific Coast, Rocky Mountains, Japan, France, & Germany.

    Required Packing List

    • Passport. Tourist visa not required for US citizens. For other citizens, check with the embassy.
    • Helmet (include label with emergency contacts)
    • Water bottles or water bladder
    • Bicycle shorts
    • Rain gear
    • Casual clothing when off the bicycle
    • Warm clothing (it can get cool)
    • Tire irons, wrench keys, chain tool, patch kit, & pump

    Optional Packing List

    The following is a long list of optional items to bring. Use it as a reminder of additional items that can make your trip and rides more comfortable.

    • Bicycle Gear
      • Tubes
      • Helmet mirror
      • Chamois cream
    • Bicycle Clothing
      • Shorts
      • Jersey
      • Arm & leg warmers
      • Rain jacket
      • Vest
      • Socks
      • Gloves
      • Sunglasses
      • Shoes
    • Accessories
      • Swim suit
      • Toothbrush & paste
      • Lip balm
      • Razor & shaving cream
      • Contact lens solution & case
      • Glasses
      • Flashlight or head lamp
      • Mobile phone & charger
      • Deodorant
      • Sunscreen
      • Camera & battery charger
      • GPS, power charger, & bicycle mount
      • AA & AAA batteries